By Donald Wittkowski
They attended a fashion show Friday night. On Saturday, they did some shopping, indulged in a massage and then went out for dinner. On Sunday, they topped it all off with some more shopping.
For best friends Lynn Broderick and Lori Gilliam, it was a whirlwind weekend of fun and relaxation that cost them only $250 each, including their room at an oceanfront hotel.
“It was $500 for both of us. That is probably the price of just one night at a hotel during the high season, compared to the whole weekend for us,” said Broderick, of North East, Md.
Their package deal at the Port-O-Call Hotel was part of a “Girls Weekend” promotional event in Ocean City that caters to women shoppers and is fast becoming one of the most anticipated dates on the social calendar.
Now in its second year, Girls Weekend brings much-needed foot traffic to the Asbury Avenue downtown business district during what is normally a slow time of year for Ocean City’s hotels and shops.
Merchants reported they were busy all weekend, particularly on Saturday. One of them said the surge of business was reminiscent of Memorial Day weekend, the traditional start of the peak summer tourism season.
“It’s almost like a Memorial Day push. Look at it. There are no open parking spaces out there now,” Lauren Waltz, owner of the Blue Lotus boutique, said while gazing out the window of her Asbury Avenue shop.
Waltz had a sign at the front entrance that said, “Welcome Girls.” Other stores also had signs promoting Girls Weekend. In addition, the sidewalks lining Asbury Avenue were adorned with pink banners advertising Girls Weekend.
Shopkeepers reported that clothes and shoes were hot sellers over the weekend. But the most coveted item may have been the bright pink shopping bags handed out by merchants and embossed with the words “Girls Weekend.”
“I had those bags for only about 10 minutes,” Waltz said. “People were asking us, ‘Do you have those pink bags?’”
Broderick and Gilliam were among the lucky ones, proudly clutching their pink shopping bags as keepsakes of a memorable weekend.
“It’s been great,” said Gilliam, of Lansdale, Pa. “We’ve already done a lot of shopping, and now we’re going to do some more.”
Besides the shopping, there is also a strong social component to Girls Weekend. After they finish hitting the stores, the women often spend a relaxing time together having drinks and dinner or stopping at the salon.
Overall, the weekend features hotel and bed-and-breakfast packages, dining offers, shopping discounts, spa and salon specials, a fashion show, prizes, yoga, wellness classes and more, the city said.
Broderick and Gilliam, two out-of-staters, were emblematic of the drawing power of Girls Weekend. Waltz noted that the event is not only popular with local shoppers, but also appeals to women from outside the South Jersey area.
“I think they should totally keep it going. It’s fantastic,” Waltz said, urging the city to bring back Girls Weekend for 2018.
Bargain-hunting shoppers were attracted to signs offering steep, offseason discounts. Julie Agnew, of Blandon, Pa., browsed through a rack of clothes that were on sale for 20 percent off at the Island Gypsy boutique on Asbury Avenue.
“We always come to Ocean City this time of year,” Agnew said. “There is beautiful weather, but no crowds.”
Linda Banner, manager of Island Gypsy, said business was bustling on Saturday. She expected another wave of shoppers on Sunday afternoon, after people finished having a late breakfast and attending church.
“We had a great day yesterday,” Banner said of Saturday’s crowds.
Maribeth Neall, a saleswoman at the Sun Seekers women’s clothing store on Asbury Avenue, said even a bout of chilly and overcast weather didn’t keep the shoppers away on Saturday.
Sun Seekers was one of the shops that participated in a fashion show Friday night, at Glazed Over Studios on Asbury Avenue, to kick off Girls Weekend.
Neall characterized the entire weekend as a success, expressing her hope that Girls Weekend will return next year.
“Last year, it did very well. This year, it was better,” she said. “It was very nicely done and very well received.”